Monday, March 31, 2008

Futility and hope

Offer me solutions
Offer me alternatives
And I decline
- REM

James Howard Kunstler is fond of ridiculing the hopes of the technocrats, those people out there who want to maintain life-as-we-know-it, just running on alternative energy. He calls it the world of Happy Motoring. You could also call it WalMart with solar panels. Whatever you call this dysfunctional and wasteful lifestyle we now "enjoy", it won't be continuing in its present incarnation.

Resistance to the coming changes is futile, and may I add, counterproductive. So I say, go with the flow and try to direct the energy in a way that will benefit your family and the world at large. Instead of trying to KEEP things the same, make your lifestyle changes in advance, slowly perhaps (the way I do it) rather than being forced into it. Believe that you are making changes for the better of the world, and you are a hero. Believe that you are making changes only because there is no choice any more, you have no options, you have not prepared - and you will be just one more sad victim.

Sometimes I think that our current lifestyles were designed to waste as much energy and resources as possible. How else can you justify shipping bananas over a thousand miles? Or going to all the effort and chemicals to cleanse water, just to crap in it and flush it away? Or hopping in a Hummer to drive 4 miles to get a pack of cigarettes? Or using a dryer, when drying can be done by the sun, for free? Or pouring tons of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers on a lawn that's not even used for anything????

Of course, this lifestyle was not designed to waste energy and resources. It just grew, tumor-like, in a time when energy and many resources had no value placed on them. Even the resources most vital to us, water, air, energy - in a capitalist system they were "Free".

At some point, I hope to get a solar panel or two, but the system won't be designed to run my current household energy load. What I would like to preserve are the ability to turn on a few lights and maybe a radio, ceiling fans, and laptop. These are all low-energy items that vastly improve comfort, information gathering, and enjoyment. Most other appliances, which I currently now enjoy, such as geothermal heating, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, are all designed mostly for convenience and reduction of labor. They will have to go.

I would certainly like to have running water, but I imagine we will have some sort of restrictions applied. Out go the daily watering of Bermuda (not my policy anyway), out go the flush toilets, hopefully to be replaced by composting toilets, out go loooong lovely heated showers. Don't try to keep these things, that will only make it worse. But if you prepare wisely, ahead of time - you may have water for a nice solar shower, hand washing clothes, watering your garden.

Of course, some people will have access to these things, and they will be marks of luxury and status. But just as we are seeing now, as our American way of life has spread it's tentacles to the far corners of the Earth, not everyone can live like that. It's futile to hold on to it. We can however, hope for comfort, and health, and happiness. It will just take some work now, while we still have time.

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